One of my favorite areas of the ChurchWP.net website is our Designer Interviews. It gives you a chance to learn from some of the best church WordPress theme designers. You not only learn about them and their companies, but also what they think is important to include on your church website. In this episode, we get to feature a new up and coming designer, Galen Gidman (Twitter), the owner of the new church theme company called ThemeBright.com. You can read our review of his Restful theme here!
How long have you been involved in web design and what go you started?
I’ve been building websites in one form or another since 2007. I was 13 at the time and my dad had an old copy of Dreamweaver MX from his web freelancing days in the early 2000s. I installed it on my Acer Aspire laptop and used the WYSIWYG editor to build little sites for non-existent companies and bands for fun.
How did you get interested in creating WordPress themes?
Along about late 2008, my dad introduced me to WordPress. By this time I’d learned to write HTML and CSS by hand and I saw WordPress as the next step to making *real* websites that served some use. I dug into the source of a free theme off the wordpress.org theme repository, and started trying stuff. I bought a domain and put up a blog that I must’ve redesigned every couple of weeks. Since I didn’t have the skill to write a PHP CMS from scratch, WordPress enabled me to do so much more than I’d ever been able to do in the past. It was really exciting.
How did you get interested in church websites?
Church websites is something I’ve been doing a lot of for the past year or so, both my everyday freelancing work and now with ThemeBright. It’s a niche I love to work in for a lot reasons, but mostly because really good church websites can have such a positive impact.
How does your faith impact your design?
I think the biggest way would be in my work ethic. As a designer and developer, I feel that it’s really important to not just do a passable job, but to product quality work and approach every project as though you were doing it directly for God.
Why do you think churches should use WordPress to create their website?
WordPress may not be the perfect fit for every church, but I think it’s a perfect fit for most of them. First and foremost, since it’s a free, open-source platform, it fits virtually any budget. It’s also a very extendable platform, so any feature you want now or may want down the road is probably doable, and has likely already exists as a plugin.
What are the key things churches should consider when looking for a theme?
One of the most important things to look for in a theme these days is mobile compatibility. Studies are showing that mobile is making up a rapidly increasing percent of overall web traffic, and Google just announced that they’ve started to penalize sites that don’t play nice with mobile in their search results. A lot of themes will tell you they’re mobile-friendly, but not all “mobile-friendly” themes are created equal. The best way to tell the good ones from the bad ones is just to pull them up on your smartphone. Is it easy to navigate? Is it fast? Is the content easy to read? These are the things that your visitors will care about. Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll learn a lot.
Another thing I think is really important for churches looking for a WordPress theme is content portability — if you switch your theme down the road, will the content you created with one theme still work in the next theme? Steven Gliebe has a great post(Here is a link to our Avoiding the Church Lock In Effect article too!) about this and has created the Church Theme Content plugin to help churches using WordPress avoid getting locked into one theme forever. It’s something we’re a big fan of at ThemeBright and we use to power all of our themes. If you’re going to buy a WordPress theme for your church, even if it’s not one of ours, I highly recommend picking one that uses the Church Theme Content plugin. Steve created a website that lists the themes that use it. (You can also see all of them via our comparison tool. and filter by the church content option.)
Thirdly, churches need to pick a theme that’s going to be easy install and customize. There are a lot great *looking* themes on places like ThemeForest that are a nightmare to configure and manage. Usually, you won’t know until after you’ve bought it and it’s too late. I’m not going to name it, but several months ago, I tried using one of the popular church themes on ThemeForest to build a website for a client, and it was so complicated that even I, who has worked with WordPress daily for years, got very confused. When you’re looking for a WordPress theme, try to find one that’s not going to drown you in “options” and “features” that make using it a complicated mess.
How did ThemeBright get started? How long have you been in business? What are your dreams for the new company?
I’d wanted to create a WordPress theme shop for a long time and I’d even tried a few times. For whatever reason though, I never was able to finish things to a point where they were ready to launch. Sometime about April of 2014, I had the idea to keep it simple and try to create and market a single church theme.
Long story short, ideas and plans grew into what ThemeBright is today and I launched April 6th, 2015 after almost a year of work. My long term goal is two-fold: (1) that it will turn into a resource that churches can confidently and repeatedly turn to for quality WordPress themes with great support and (2) that it will provide sustainable income for me personally so I can keep growing it.
What makes ThemeBright unique? Why would one of your themes be a good investment for churches?
When we build our themes, it’s all about getting a church from point A to point Z as quickly and easily as possible. Our themes are designed to be very easy to install, use, and maintain. Instead of drowning you in huge options panels and endless customization preferences, we give you a straight-forward, content-portable theme with manageable customization and easy setup.
What information do you think every church website should include? Why is it important?
Try to answer the 5 Ws on your website: who, what, where, when, and why? Always put yourself in the shoes of the visitor — what do they want to see on your website? What’s important to them? That’s the content to use.
Are there any mistakes you see churches make with their websites? Anything churches should try to avoid?
I think a lot of churches can have the tendency to over-design their websites. As I talked about in answer to the previous question, it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of the visitor and giving them what they need. They might not want to see 187 pictures of last week’s potluck dinner, but they probably would like to see when the next service is.
What do you like to do when you are not developing WordPress themes?
I’m a huge motorsports fan and enjoy watching almost all forms of it. I even participate in online simulation racing on iRacing several times per week. It’s a blast.